Telstra’s Retail Vs Wholesale mobile plans – the catches you need to know

Telstra’s Retail Vs Wholesale mobile plans (what it offers versus what its Mobile Virtual network operators – MVNOs offer) are two very different animals. Should your prices dictate the services/coverage you receive – or do they?

First, a little background. Telstra and one MVNO Boost Mobile use the full Retail Network. Every other Telstra MVNO, like Woolworths and Aldi, uses the Telstra Wholesale network. For the most part, city and urban dwellers won’t notice the difference. But rural, regional, and remote areas will. And if download speeds are essential, the Wholesale plans have capped speeds.

Difference between Telstra’s Retail Vs Wholesale mobile plans

ItemTelstra RetailTelstra Wholesale
BrandsTelstra Direct and Boost Mobile (Not Belong)Telstra MVNOs like Woolworths and Aldi
Claimed Population coverage4G – 99.4%
5G – 75%
4G – 97.9%
5G* – 75%
Area coverage2.6 million square km
(33.82% of 7.688million square km)
1.6 million square km
Download/UploadUnlimited Ultimate Speed (gigabit) but typically 4G up to 180/40Mbps
5G 250/40Mbps (Source)
Capped 4G up to 100/40Mbps
5G up to 100/40Mbps Typically, 50/10Mbps (Source)
Bands 4GB3 (1800MHz)
B7 (2600MHz)
B28 (700MHz)
“Part of the 4G/5G network”
B3 (1800Mhz)
B7 (2600Mhz) limited areas
B28 (700Mhz) depends on whether the tower has this band to be repurposed to a 5G Low band).
Bands 5G* Requires 5G capable subscription
N5 (850MHz) low band for closer to 3G speeds at up to 5km from a tower
N78 (3500Mhz) sub-6 GHz at 5G speeds up to 1.6km from a tower (Source). Boost Mobile is yet to offer 5G plans
* Aldi and Woolworths offer a 5G trial and subscription, but it is more expensive than Telstra Retail, and prices are subject to increase from 28 February 2023.
Support/OutagesVia Telstra Call Centre or Telstra/Boost AppWoolworths – Olive Chatbot (pretty good)
Aldi – Log into your account and submit a support form.

What does this all mean?

From a phone user’s perspective, all cover at least Unlimited calls to Australian landlines and Calls/SMS to and from Australian mobiles.

Most MVNOs offer limited-time data bonuses to entice new customers. We ignore these bonus data offers as it is a carrot that is not worth the effort. Buy the base plan that suits your needs and upgrade or downgrade instead of being locked in.

Some MVNOs may offer additional benefits (links are to all Plans)

  • Woolworths offer 10% off a monthly grocery shop (maximum value $50), Unlimited international calls and SMS to 22 countries and a 500GB data rollover bank. Overseas roaming is additional.
  • Aldi’s $25+ plans include standard international calls/SMS to 20 countries. Overseas roaming is additional. Includes data rollover bank.
  • Boost Mobile has unlimited standard calls and SMS to at least 20 international destinations. Overseas roaming is additional. Includes data rollover bank.
  • Telstra offers 4G/5G SIM-only plans from $58/40GB (Capped) to $89/300GB (Ultimate 4/5G speeds) and 4G only Pre-paid mobile from $30/10GB to $60/40GB with continuous unused data rollover.

If you are not concerned

  • About data speed caps, Woolworths/Aldi offers far better value. In 99% of cases, you won’t reach anywhere near the maximum download/upload speeds anyway, so that is not an enticement to go to Telstra Retail.
  • With 5G access (and you should not be unless you live and work where there is coverage), avoid Telstra 5G entirely. You can use a 5G phone with a 4G sim plan.
  • About coverage of 2.6 million square kilometres verse 1.6m (the difference is mainly in rural and remote areas and does not affect significant cities/suburbs or regional cities), then avoid Telstra.

There was one reason to go to Telstra and Boost – VoLTE and Wi-Fi calling – the ability to use your NBN home Wi-Fi connection to make and receive phone calls. That is important if you live in a Telstra blackspot but have decent Wi-Fi speeds. Telstra recommends using BigPond to enable the service, but we have tested with many other NBN providers – all good. But wait, there is more.

Woolworths is rolling out VoLTE (voice calls over 4G with late-model iPhone, Galaxy, Pixel, and OPPO devices) and, more importantly, Wi-Fi calling to all its plans during November and December 2022. Aldi does not yet support VoLTE or Wi-Fi calling.

Boost Mobile comments

CyberShack uses Boost Mobile to test all phones due to its use of the Telstra Retail Network – thanks, Boost, for supplying a free annual sim. It could not agree more, referring to its recent research on 3,200 average Australian in 18 regions who have had the same network provider for three years or more despite significant savings often available by researching and switching.

Boost found that an average of 64% of Aussies are rusted onto their Telco, with the 45-64 year segment at 73%. The most important elements of a good network provider are a) good network coverage (46%) and b) and price (44%). Data allowances were way down at 27%, showing the bonus data offers are not working.

Many Australians are leaving savings on the table by sticking blindly with their existing mobile phone plans. To everyone reviewing their expenses – do your research and consider switching. It’s an easy way to deliver real savings without making any sacrifices to your lifestyle.

Jason Haynes, General Manager, Boost Mobile.

CyberShack’s view – Telstra’s Retail Vs Wholesale mobile plans

This article started when I went to WA for a holiday, taking a Boost Sim (Telstra retail network) in one phone and a Woolworths SIM (Telstra Wholesale network) in another.

It was to focus on coverage differences from as far north as Exmouth (Ningaloo Reef), in Perth, south to Rottnest Island and then the Indian Pacific train from Perth to Sydney. It was not scientific but empirical testing – where the devices (OPPO Find X5 Pro – a superb Android flagship with insanely fast charge) and OPPO Find X5 – the more affordable flagship sibling – both with exceptionally strong antenna signal strengths – varied. We also used Network Cell Info Lite App to measure -dBM signal quality and femtowatt/picowatt signal strengths. Readings were taken at 8 AM, 12 PM, 4 PM, and 8 PM and when the train passed a township. See the Telstra Map and the nPerf map compiled by users.

The 4G test results were almost identical. The slightly higher Telstra average coverage figures include 5G.

What was different was that Boost found 3G Bands more often (that were not part of this test). The Woolworths sim uses Band 3 (1800GHz) more often than Band 28 (700GHz). No real difference.

So we surmise that if you

  • Must have 5G then Telstra Direct Retail Network
  • Must have the 4G Telstra Retail network that Boost offers better value than Telstra
  • The Telstra Wholesale network does not impede if you are a typical user. You can get great value from Woolworths (especially with the 10% off shopping offer), and any Telstra Wholesale MVNO will have the same network performance.

We think 5G and 5G low band is still a hoax perpetuated by Telstra and phone makers to sell more phones – the next big thing. See coverage maps here.

And that more MVNOs will start to offer VoLTE and Wi-Fi calling as they renegotiate their deal with Telstra, as Woolworths has already done.

As usual, Telstra is invited to respond if any of the information above is incorrect.😂